Stephanie Sklar: My Heroes at CARES

My experience with CJFS has evolved through the years; from a volunteer in the '90s, to client, to employee, to mother of a volunteer, to daughter of a client. Through life’s joys and challenges, CJFS has remained a constant. It was in this latest role of daughter, however, that CJFS truly changed the course of my life, as it helped me and my sisters navigate the challenges of caring for our mother, who lived with dementia.

My mom was a beautiful, strong, dynamic woman who strove to maintain her autonomy and dignity as the disease fought to take them away. Balancing her desire for independence with her need for increasing care and support became a daily struggle for us. She was very resistant to accepting help and would become quite defensive and stubborn. We were at a loss. CJFS became our lifeline -- educating us about dementia and how we could best support our mom in a way that was both compassionate and with firm boundaries. They provided invaluable support to our whole family through their services and by introducing us to additional resources available in the community.

As Mom’s disease progressed, she became more and more isolated and lonely. She was reluctant to leave the sense of security she felt at home.  It was scary for her to venture out into a world that no longer made sense. This isolation only fueled her dementia. Understanding this, we again turned to CJFS and enrolled her in the CARES respite program.

CARES was a gift! Mom was able to be herself again. No one judged her or questioned her. She felt accepted and safe among her peers. She laughed. She felt valued. She mattered. I’m not sure what kind of price can be put on giving someone their dignity back, but in my view, it is priceless. Sadly, my mom passed away in March, but knowing that at the end of her life she was able to experience true happiness and purpose again eases the pain of losing her.  I will always be grateful to Pam and Lise, Director and Assistant Director of CARES, and to the many CARES volunteers.

 They gave my mom and continue to give each of the participants at CARES the love and respect they so richly deserve. They are true heroes.

 

CLICK HERE to watch as Bobby and Alan share their experience volunteering at CARES.

For more information about volunteering at CARES contact Lise Grace, lise@cjfsbham.org or 205.410.1958.